A Swedish political group, the youth wing of the Liberal Party, has proposed the idea that men should be given an equal say in whether or not they wish to become a parent, and be granted the option to abdicate any lawful responsibilities to an unborn child. The proposal suggests that a man be able to cut all legal ties and responsibilities to an unborn child up to the 18th week of a woman’s pregnancy. A man who chose this option would not have any child support obligations, but he would also lose all parental rights to the child.
This suggested legal rejection of paternity would be irreversible, and the man would be required to renounce all parental duties and rights of any access to the child once it has been born. (Some news sources are referring to this proposed process as “legal abortion”).
This proposal would give men more choice in the decision of becoming a parent. According to Marcus Nilsen, chairman of Liberal Youth of Sweden (LUF) West, the establishment of this proposal would set up a system by which there is a clear legal decision about the role men are required to play in their child’s life. This proposal has initiated quite a debate in Sweden over the roles of men and women in parenthood and the issue of voluntary parenthood.
In many countries, women have access to contraception and abortion, in addition to the option of placing their child for adoption. In countries such as this, parenthood has become a voluntary choice for women. Those in favor of the Liberal Party’s proposal argue that men do not have the same choice as women. In the United States, for example, if a woman conceives a child with a man and she decides to continue the pregnancy, the man will be legally responsible for paying child support for that child. He does not have the choice to abdicate his legal obligations to the child. The different options that men and women have create an imbalance with respect to the rights of men and women in this situation. Some argue that men should be given more options in the case of an accidental pregnancy.
The social consequences of requiring men to have a legal relationship with a child to which they did not agree may include the reality of men who legally are fathers but who do not have any relationship with a child beyond paying required child support. This may lead to negative consequences for all involved. The social consequences of allowing men to abdicate all legal responsibility for a child may be equally concerning to society. If the ultimate goal of society in these cases is to protect children, what would be the best solution?
Is the current system respecting the rights of men to have a choice in the decision to become a parent? Would it be more ethical for men to be given more control over when they become a parent?
Is it ethical to allow men the opportunity to abdicate legal responsibility for a child if they do not want to become a parent?
Finally, is there another way to handle the question of choice with respect to parenthood? Should fatherhood or parenthood have a different definition than the biological one currently used by our legal system?